Monday, December 14, 2020

Devil's Day - Andrew Michael Hurley

 

Summary: In the wink of an eye, as quick as a flea,

The Devil he jumped from me to thee.
And only when the Devil had gone,
Did I know that he and I'd been one . . .

Every autumn, John Pentecost returns to the farm where he grew up, to help gather the sheep down from the moors for the winter. Very little changes in the Endlands, but this year, his grandfather—the Gaffer—has died and John's new wife, Katherine, is accompanying him for the first time.

Each year, the Gaffer would redraw the boundary lines of the village, with pen and paper but also through the remembrance of tales and timeless communal rituals, which keep the sheep safe from the Devil. But as the farmers of the Endlands bury the Gaffer and prepare to gather the sheep, they begin to wonder whether they've let the Devil in after all. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review:  I picked this book up in a way that I love to do; when you first walk in, my local library has different displays of books with different topics. This is usually related to what’s going on—events, new fiction, in the news, holidays, etc. I’m sure your library does this, too. Despite my best efforts to be disciplined and just walk right in and grab my books that are on hold, sometimes I get waylaid by those tempting bits of librarian-made eye candy. I just can’t help it! This book happened to be on a “spooky reads” display, which is always tempting to me. I usually look around and read a few titles (there are always lots to choose from), and this one stood out to me. The cover is certainly ominous, and the description sounded good. It also has a Kirkus starred review, which I find can be hit and miss (and due to the ratings on Goodreads for books with Kirkus starred reviews, I know I’m not the only one). Anyway, I always like to give them a try because I do enjoy Kirkus’ book podcast, and have added many books there to my extensive and ever-growing “to read” list.

This book started out promising. The writing was unique, in that it took me a little while to really get into it, but I feel like that happens to me a lot when authors have a very distinct style and its more than just mass-market writing, ya know? I like authors with style, especially ones that are good at their craft and their writing is purposeful. I feel like Hurley is definitely an author with experience and style. He knows what he’s doing, he knows how to create a story—how to move it along, how to stall when necessary, how to create tension. I could definitely appreciate his ability to do this.

Now for the story—honestly, I was hoping for a lot more creepiness and maybe even some real horror, or at least some magical realism. I don’t want to give a lot away here, but this story built itself up to something dramatic happening, and hinted at dramatic happenings, and yet it never really delivered. There is definitely low grade creepiness throughout, but it read like just a normal story with people who are isolated and have beliefs of cultural bogeyman, instead of the actual promised “devil” that was described in the summaries. And I guess that’s my problem, and so maybe it is the problem with the people who marketed the book. I’m okay with low key books, and I really enjoyed the slice of life into the English countryside that this provided. I love reading historical fiction like that. If I can get an insight into an area and time of life that I am unfamiliar with, I love it. I would have been prepared for that, because, realistically, this book is just a quiet description of that. A well-written and insightful description of that (as well as familiar relationships, obligations, etc.,), but I was hoodwinked by the promise of devils and I didn’t get them. I wanted devils. I wanted something to actually happen, whereas, much like reality of life in this book, really doesn’t happen. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make for completely scintillating reading, though, and sometimes I want that. Okay, a lot of times.

If you are into quiet, well-written, introspective novels, especially ones that take place in England (because this felt very place-specific), you should definitely check this out. Be prepared for complex family relationships and discussions of obligation. If you are in a book club that enjoys deep discussions, and is not afraid to take on a novel that is more than just easy reading/pot boilers, I think this might be a really good choice.

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has some language, but it is not overbearing or excessive.

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